Arminian Today

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Review of Douglas Wilson’s Black and Tan

The American Civil War produced many different things.  The war itself would become the map for Generals to study during World War I and II.  Over 650,000 men would lose their lives in the conflict between the United States and the Confederates States.  But the war itself was over complex issues.  It wasn’t just slavery that was the heart of the Civil War.  That often takes people by surprise.  Had you told Union soldiers in 1862 that they were fighting to free the African slaves, they would have protested.  After all, even President Lincoln had said the issue of the War was the Union and to bring the states in rebellion back under Federal control.  Further, Lincoln was a loyal Whig and he wanted to see the Federal Government increase its role in American life.  The South wanted nothing of the Feds in their business.  The South wanted to live free.

This takes us to the heart of this book, written by Douglas Wilson.  Wilson looks at race relations in the United States and he shows how much of our failures in regard to race stem from the Civil War itself.  Wilson points out that the South argued for slavery based on the Bible.  The North argued against slavery based on their emotions.  Both the North and the South were racists and even Lincoln himself believed in the superiority of the white race (as did Europeans).  What both Europe and America failed to see was that Christianity is what makes nations great and not race.  As Asia is embracing the gospel and Europe is rejecting the gospel, the gospel will produce incredible results for Asians.  This was true of “Christian” Europe and “Christian” America before they both began to reject the gospel and now both Europe and the United States are falling apart.  The Civil War, writes Wilson, was the wrath of God against sin.  The South was right to argue for biblical slavery (not based on racism) but upon biblical masters and biblical slaves.  Where the gospel is preached, slavery dies.  Yet the abolitionist movement argued that slavery itself was wrong.  Southern slavery was not wrong itself (though it was practiced wrong and was evil in some cases) but what was wrong was racism.  Since the Civil War did not address the sin of racism, we are still facing the problems from the Civil War to this day.

Furthermore, the modern anti-abortion movement must preach the Word of God to see transformation.  To merely oppose abortion while not calling for the salvation of the abortion doctors or the women involved in abortions will not result in a transformed culture.  The gospel must be the focus and not merely ending abortion.  The abolitionists wanted to end slavery but they had to set aside the gospel to do so since the Bible didn’t forbid slavery but it did forbid racism.

Contrary to some reports, Wilson is not a Neo-Confederate.  He believes that slavery (while very evil in some cases) was not the issue.  Racism was.  Further, Reconstruction of the South caused the racism of the Jim Crow era.  He points out two main facts often ignored by modern historians regarding the South.  First, over 40,000 African-Americans served the Confederacy during the Civil War.  Some died alongside their Southern rebels in war.  Even abolitionist Frederick Douglas acknowledged that African-Americans were fighting for the South during the Civil War.  Why?  Some blacks were plantation owners themselves and knew that a Northern victory would end their plantations (and it did).  Some fought to preserve their lives.  They enjoyed their situations.  Very few were forced to fight.  Secondly, Wilson points out that whites reacted to blacks taking over their lands following the Civil War (forced by the Feds) with racism.  The rise of the KKK comes from the Reconstruction era.  Even men such as General Sherman acknowledged the failure of Reconstruction in the South and viewed it as a failure.

So what is the point of this book?  Is it to defend the South?  Is it to promote slavery as a good thing?  Not at all.  Wilson is simply pointing out that racism is the heart of the issue.  The gospel alone deals with the heart of racism, our sinful hearts.  The cure for racism is not forced integration or even a Civil War in which millions were affected.  The cure for racism is the blood of Jesus that unites the saints of God (Ephesians 2:14-15).  The gospel makes us one (Galatians 3:26-29).  The gospel can cleanse our hearts from sin and make us new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).  The gospel, and not the Civil War, is what will transform race relations both in the United States and around the world.  In Christ, whites can appreciate blacks and blacks can appreciate Hispanics and Hispanics can appreciate Japanese.  Jesus makes us one (John 17:20-23).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/21/2013 at 9:46 PM

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